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Oliver Wendell Holmes's Train and Your Company's Direction

March 4, 1999
Related Topics: Future Workplace, Strategic Planning, Featured Article
Recently, someone told me the story of Oliver Wendell Holmes and the train ticket. Holmes was a Supreme Court Justice who was very respected, very intelligent, but a little bit absent-minded.

Apparently, Holmes was on a train one day, when the railroad ticket-checker began walking down the car, checking tickets. As the ticket-checker approached, he watched Holmes search his wallet, unable to find his ticket. Frustrated, Holmes then checked each of his pockets. Still no ticket.

Holmes was more and more agitated with himself as he went through his briefcase, still unable to find his ticket.

The ticket-checker had finally made his way to Holmes’ seat.

“Justice Holmes,” he said, laughing, “I know who you are. Everyone knows who you are. There’s no need to show me your ticket.”

“No, sir, that’s not the problem,” said Justice Holmes. “The problem is that I can’t remember where I’m going.”

When your business is undergoing change, starting a new project, opening a new office, or hiring a new set of employees, keep the Holmes story in mind. It will remind you to always have a feel for the direction you’re going.

SOURCE:Todd Raphael, Workforce Online, February 3, 1999.

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